J Smith and D J Leaper
Published by TFM Publishing Limited
This book enters a fairly crowded market of “breast health” books, aimed mainly at women and primary healthcare workers. This market has been well served with publications such as those by Susan Love, Miriam Stoppard and indeed most women’s magazines.
I suspect this book would appeal most to women who are having a breast symptom investigated or who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.
The book follows a fairly standard and logical format, introducing breast anatomy and diseases and then following the patient’s cancer “journey” through screening, diagnosis, hospital admission and treatment to palliative care.
My immediate impression was a book of many words and few pictures – some chapters have detailed diagrams but many have not – particularly notable when you want to see “what it looks like”, such as after reconstruction.
There are, for the experienced reader, a few irritating errors and out-of-date and misleading comments, such as “cysts only occurring in nulliparous young women, gestational breast cancer being inflammatory, and sentinel node injection into axilla and tamoxifen being useful for nearly all women with breast cancer”.
Overall the most useful chapters were not the factual breast cancer ones, for which there are many other excellent brochures, web sites etc., but those explaining practicalities, such as “going into hospital, anaesthesia, after surgery, post-operative complications and prostheses”.
Does this book have a valuable place in the current crowded marketplace? To be honest, there are probably more useful publications – my current favourite is by two UCL doctors (a surgeon and a medical oncologist) called Patient Pictures: Clinical drawings for your patients. BREAST CANCER. By Mohammed Keshtgar and Rob Stein. Published by Health Press Ltd. Oxford. 2003.
Given this is likely to be read by women with breast cancer, does it contain enough information? Again I think many women would need to supplement the facts presented with, for example, internet searches.
As this is a UK book, how relevant is it to an Australian audience? Generally quite relevant, although the more involved role of the GP in Australia is overlooked.
Can you dip in and out? Or if you wanted to read it cover-to-cover, is it do-able? The main chapters that are useful are the practical ones which you can dip into. Cover-to-cover expect three to four hours of solid reading – unrelieved by many pictures, diagrams or cartoons!